U.S. considering high-tech dog collars to protect the border, bark 'translation' may be new tool

A new tool in securing the U.S. border may be something as simple as a dog collar.

The collars would contain sensors that would alert Border Patrol agents if their canine partners become stressed – something that could signal danger or a criminal activity in progress, according to Nextgov.com

The disclosure that the Department of Homeland Security is considering the collars for their border canine unit came from the agency’s chief technology officer, Wolf Tombe, in a speech in Washington D.C. earlier this month.

The collar would relay the information to an agent via a mobile device, Nextgov.com said.

Sometimes, border patrol agents say, dogs might not be with their handler if they’re resting in a vehicle or get separated for some other reason. If they encounter danger or become agitated by something around them – such as smugglers or drugs being trafficked or people trying to enter illegally – the collar would alert the agent even if he or she is not with the dog.

Tombe’s speech was focused on how new technology, such as wearable gadgets, are becoming part and parcel of border security.

“Canines are still our best sensors,” Tombe said.

Some are already saying that the new technology, while still in preliminary stages, has potential.

“To the extent that these collars enable handlers to take greater advantage of dogs' sensory capabilities and enable dogs to operate effectively at greater distance from their handlers, they may increase the effectiveness of each team,“ said Rey Koslowski, a political science professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents border agents, is not embracing the idea of the high-tech collar.

Moran said in an interview with Fox News Latino that agents who work with dogs on the border are usually always next to their four-legged partners and can tell if they pick up a scent or other clue that warns of a crime or danger.

A collar, he says, doesn’t seem necessary.

“They’re the best tool we have out there,” Moran said of the Border Patrol dogs. “They’re responsible for the vast majority of the apprehensions and seizures."

“Their sense of smell is so many times greater than a human’s,” he said. “They can sniff out drugs, explosives, concealed money – anything you can hide, they can be trained to sniff out.”

Wearable electronic devices are already common in border security. Nextgov.com said those include “smart wrist-watches, wearable cameras and clothing equipped with health and safety sensors, improving the effectiveness and safety for border agents in the field.”

One company that markets such collars is the Israel-based company Bio-Sense, which says it conducts field tests with the Israeli Ministry of Homeland Security and the Israeli Defense Forces.

Efforts via email and the telephone to get a comment from Bio-Sense were unsuccessful.

The company website says that its collar “processes barks and can tell whether your dog is alarmed, senses danger or is just communicating with neighbors.”

“To a human, all barks sound the same,” the Bio-sense website says, “science tells us they are not.”

Its collar “translates dog barks into digital signals. The translation is done by utilizing a proprietary algorithm which filters dog barks and captures a specific set of barks that fall into a pre defined ‘threat’ category.”

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